Entries open for teen drivers challenge


The Delaware County Juvenile Court and the SAFE Delaware Coalition are partnering to run a contest for local high school students in order to promote safer driving and car control skills.

Delaware County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge David Hejmanowski said the project is funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Public Safety focused on behind-the-wheel training for young Ohio drivers.

Hejmanowski said teenage drivers are required to do a certain number of hours of driver training before they can receive their license, but other than in-car experience, there’s no advanced training to prepare teens for emergency situations like last-second lane changes or wet braking.

“That training doesn’t prepare you for emergency circumstances, (it doesn’t) get you to know how to handle what’s going to go on in an emergency until you are in that emergency,” Hejmanowski said. “The advanced training we look at for (teen drivers) is intended to do just that.”

SAFE Delaware County Coalition Coordinator Jackie Bain said the contest consists of sending a team of 11 students from each local high school to a class and an advanced driver training that covers emergencies such as slaloms, wet braking, spin avoidance, and emergency lane changes, and then asking the teens to make a video about their experience to share with their peers.

Bain said the schools will submit one edit of all of their videos, and the students on the winning team will each receive a $100 gas card, courtesy of the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office.

Bain said the course is typically $350, but it will be free to the teens from each team. Bain said the training instructor, Mark Bloom, says he wants new drivers to experience that “first wide-eyed emergency driving situation” and then let them repeat it several times until they develop the muscle memory to handle it safely.

Bain said the contest was created because teens listen to their peers more than adults.

“It’s not just a competition for the schools, it’s for the young people,” Bain said. “It lets them get creative. It’s a very exciting opportunity. It’s wonderful that we have this partnership … most of the teen driver collisions, they happen during the hours when they are going to and from school. It makes sense that this responsibility for getting the word out should be filtered through our high schools.”

Citing the National Center for Health statistics, Hejmanowski said that once children become of driving age, the likelihood that they die increases massively. He attributed a large portion of that increase to unintentional injury as the result of traffic crashes.

“For whatever reason, as a country … we have come to just sort of accept that as a cost of doing business,” Hejmanowski said. “It’s wrong. It doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to lose young people to motor vehicle crashes. We are constantly looking at ways to get that message across to parents and kids, and let them know about what other training is available, and why they should be taking advantage of the things that are out there.”

Teens can enter the contest at reduceohcrashes.com/activities/teen-drivers-team-challenge but must have a valid full/temporary driver’s permit.

Bain said the contest is first-come, first-serve, but said other interested families can sign up for the advances classes by visiting reduceohcrashes.com/activities/better-ohio-teen-drivers-car-control-drills-program. He said that Bloom gives a 15% discount to county students who use the promo code RTC0219.

“What a gift this is to have this opportunity,” Bain said. “We need to really to get this advanced training out in the community. It is $350 but my goodness, people spend that on a car seat that they’ll only use for a year. Right now our goal is for kids to have the experience and go back and tell their friends. We don’t have to accept that getting a traffic violation is a right of passage for kids. This isn’t to make money, this is to save lives.”

Bain said to contact her at [email protected] for more information or questions.

A car is fitted with a “drift-lift” device during an emergency training scenario in order to safely simulate limited traction in adverse weather conditions.
https://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2022/02/web1_IMG_7875.jpgA car is fitted with a “drift-lift” device during an emergency training scenario in order to safely simulate limited traction in adverse weather conditions. Courtesy photo | Delaware Public Health District

By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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